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GSTR 410

GSTR 410

Seminar in Contemporary Global Issues

Prerequisites: GSTR 310, GSTR 332, and senior standing (or 24 credits for students under the old General Education curriculum). Offered: Typically Fall and Spring terms (first offered Fall 2007). As a capstone experience for General Education, this course invites students to synthesize and integrate their learning by using their developing abilities to reason, research, and communicate to investigate aspects of a significant issue for the world today. Each section explores a topic determined by the instructors and is structured to model broadly multi-disciplinary approaches needed to understand complex problems. Each section involves faculty working closely with students’ independent research leading to a presentation of a project to others in the course.

Learning Outcomes

Successful students will:

  • learn about a contemporary global issue from diverse disciplinary approaches;
  • recognize and appreciate distinct disciplinary approaches, their strengths, limits, and contributions to integrative understanding of complex global issues;
  • build upon, use, and synthesize previous learning in General Education, elective disciplines, and major field of study;
  • engage in independent, multi-disciplinary inquiry and research of a complex, contemporary issue before the world;
  • develop an informed position on a complex global issue and formally present orally the results of research to scholarly peers and faculty.

Section Descriptions

Below are section descriptions for all instructors who regularly teach GSTR 410. Not all of these instructors listed here teach the course each term. Please refer to the schedule of classes for the term in question to see which instructors will be offering the course.

GSTR 410- Anderson, Broughton: The World on Fire (Where is the love?). Our world appears to be on fire with armed conflicts, but do we understand what is happening? Do we understand the roots of these conflicts? Do we understand our role in global conflict? Do we understand how these conflicts impact us?  This class will examine case studies around the world with the aim to better understand this world on fire. An examination of racism, sexuality and gender discrimination, wealth distribution, health disparities, and political upheaval is critical. This class will also explore our constructions of the world as a means of  understanding why we think and believe the ways we do. We will use anthropological theories and methods to explore our world and to work towards what it means to be a human in this world.  Final papers will examine a specific case study but with a means to locate love in the world.  By asking “Where is the love?,” the outcome of this paper, specifically,  and this class, generally, is to shift from hate and mistrust of the other towards love and acceptance.
*Please be aware that exploring armed conflict and our beliefs around conflict will, at times, be emotionally draining.  All students will be expected to be respectful of each other’s feelings.

GSTR 410- Broadhead, Edwin: Religious Conflict in the Modern Era. This course will analyze the role of religious conflict in the 20th and 21st century. Charles Kimball’s When Religion Becomes Evil will be used to establish a phenomenological grid for evaluating pathological traits within a wide range of religious traditions. This class will also discuss tools for critical analysis and will demonstrate how an issue may be approached through different modes of discourse. Students will be taught to look for a variety of factors at work in a specific religious conflict: among these are historical, sociological, cultural, political, economic, and environmental factors. Student projects will use a multidisciplinary perspective to investigate specific religious conflicts in area such as: the Middle East; Northern Ireland; the Balkans; India and Pakistan; and Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

In addition to theological issues, our focus will include issues such as history, sociology, culture, politics, economics and environmental factors.

GSTR 410- Burnside, Jackie: Weapons of the Weak. Can humor be another defense against the universe (Mel Brooks)? Humor, a cultural trait that anthropologists have documented in all societies, serves many functions depending upon the context and audience. For instance, dominant groups may use negative stereotypes and ridicule to ensure conformity to their status quo while subordinate groups may create humor, e.g. jokes, of a self-deprecating manner to ‘rise above’ the negative images aimed against them. As part of our comparative approach to learn more about various cultures’ traditions of humor and contexts, the functions served and the genres depicted (e.g. satire, irony, political, folklore and trickster), we will understand more about the ways in which humor represents ‘weapons of the weak.’

GSTR 410- Cahill, Richard: “Who is a Neighbor?” In a global age, is a refugee on the other side of the planet, your neighbor? What, if any, is your moral obligation? You will read primary sources from the Western tradition and from Middle Eastern traditions as you explore these questions. In this course you will connect with students in Egypt through video conferencing and/or online, to discuss texts and issues.

GSTR 410- Clark, Sean: Global Challenges, Local Solutions. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This inspiring and thought-provoking quote, usually attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead, will serve as the central theme for this section. Rather than simply accepting the statement outright, however, we’ll use it as a starting point for examining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon by the 193 member states of the United Nations (UN) in 2015. How are the global challenges described in these SDGs being addressed in a manner that results in desired improvements at local levels (e.g. cities, villages, communities and neighborhoods)? Can creative solutions yielding local breakthroughs in one part of the world be transferred to other areas effectively? If so, how? Are some challenges simply beyond the capacities of local problem-solving? And what are the necessary and appropriate roles of national governments, multinational corporations, organized religion, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions in reaching the UN SDGs by 2030? As a class we will explore and understand the rationale and current status of all of the SDGs. Then each student will have the opportunity to focus on one that interests them as the basis for the research project.

GSTR 410- Dickerson, Jacob: Global Issues on the Final Frontier. It has been said that Science Fiction is more about the present than it is about the future. The genre provides the opportunity for allegorical – and often critical – explorations of contemporary concerns in a futuristic and fantastical setting. Since the time of its debut in 1966, the Star Trek television and film franchise has been at the forefront of the genre’s tendency toward social commentary. Creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned a peaceful future in which human understanding and intelligence are the drivers of progress. Using Star Trekas a focal point, this course will explore the ways in which global issues are presented in science fiction and popular culture more broadly. We will examine issues central to the Star Trek franchise, including (but not limited to) war, race, religion/spirituality, economics, the role of technology, and the definition of humanity. No previous knowledge of the Star Trek franchise is necessary.

GSTR 410- Ferreti, Gwendolyn: Love, Death, & Migrant Flows: Transnational Movement in the Age of Restrictions. This capstone experience for General Education invites students to synthesize and integrate their learning by using their developing abilities to reason, research, and communicate to investigate aspects of a significant issue for the world today.

This section of the course will examine the processes of global migration and its varied lived experiences including: the creation and maintenance of family; reshaping love across borders; and facing death and survivance. We will analyze regular and irregular transnational flows; economic and political refugees; and critically interrogate the effects and consequences of immigration laws and policies on migrants and refugees themselves. Employing interdisciplinary approaches, students will learn about migration and conduct/compose original research that draws from the fields, frames, and themes of course.

GSTR 410- Gowler, Steve: Cosmopolitanism and Its Discontents. We will explore historical and contemporary understandings of world citizenship, considering arguments both for and against the universal values that underlie the ethical concept of cosmopolitanism. Global poverty, immigration, climate change, human rights, and nationalism are among the topics we will discuss. Required texts include Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, and Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty.

GSTR 410- Gray, Gordon: As one of the most important and controversial political topics in the USA in the early 2000s, immigration has received conspicuous amounts of news coverage, inflamed debates over issues of rights and privileges, and affected the way entire groups of people have been treated in this country. While undocumented international immigration receives most of the press, internal and temporary migrations are statistically more important—both internationally and in the USA. In this sense, the migration of people in the USA from poor and/or rural areas to urban areas is at least as crucial an issue. The drain of talent and labor from areas such as Appalachia has had a long and devastating effect upon the areas from which people are emigrating.

In this course, we will look at diverse movements of people over time and through space. In doing so, the course will focus on the economic and cultural rationales and consequences of human migration, not just on the places people are moving to, but on the places that people are moving from. We will investigate the multitude of forms that human migration has taken historically and takes now—both in the USA and internationally. Case studies will include: the Transatlantic Slave trade; the Partition of India; the displacement of the citizens of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; and the effects of the drug wars on people living on the border with Mexico. Student projects will focus on issues of migration, and in particular I would like students to relate American experiences and issues of migration with those of international migration, building on the perspectives from their majors in combination with the perspectives that form the basis for this course. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged.

GSTR 410- Huck, Dan: This section of the course will examine the response of the community of nations to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes using the concepts and mechanisms of criminal law. Students will analyze the history of international criminal law development, especially since WWII. The course places particular emphasis on the development of the special tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as the special court developed for Cambodia. The course will conclude with a consideration of the International Criminal Court’s first decade of operations, including a review of ongoing cases and a mock indictment proceeding conducted by students against persons of interest before the ICC.

GSTR 410- Lakhan, Ram: A Global Perspective on World Health. The burdens of health diseases are unequally distributed. People with higher income have better health statuses than the poor in many countries. Why is this inequality there? Where are the gaps? How is our health connected globally? What are social, biological, and environmental factors that contribute to poor health and increase disparities with age, income, employment, education, gender, place of living, etc.? In this course, we will begin with an introduction to global health. We will then analyze global health systems and important global health challenges: HIV/AIDS, malaria, access to pharmaceuticals, and maternal and child health. The course will incorporate knowledge and views from multiple academic disciplines, including public health, economics, politics, management, and sociology. Current media events related to global health will also be integrated into classroom discussions. Students will conduct research and analyze identified issues related to global health.

GSTR 410- Malaklou, M. Shadee: The Revolution Will Not Be Humanized. This upper-division General Education capstone will introduce students to critiques of humanism in fields like Women’s and Gender (and Sexuality) Studies, Posthuman Studies, Critical Animal Studies, Feminist Science Studies, and other inter- and trans-disciplines that are committed to social justice. Students will read texts by international thinkers who agitate for a new global world order like Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Kim Tallbear, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, and others, in order to understand why liberal humanism has failed to protect the most vulnerable among us, and in order to understand how to move outside of humanist discourse in order to articulate our demands for revolution.

GSTR 410- Martin, Deborah: Fat Men in Skirts: Gender Performance and Identity. This class will examine performative elements of gender, and how those elements are descended from traditional theatrical approaches to text and practice. Issues of gender identity, context, and performance will be explored in both western and non-western cultures. Gender identity issues will manifest in examples that many in American society may deem taboo, including cross-dressing, drag performance, transvestitism, etc. Both historical and contemporary issues related to these topics will be included.

The overarching aim of this course is to provide students with an understanding of gender as a culturally variable product and to broaden students’ understanding of genders and sexualities through a variety of case studies. The course explores the ways in which cultures, western as well as non-western, construct and provide meanings to gender roles. Cultural anthropologists have noted that while biological understandings of sexes are important, other aspects such as the role of social and cultural forces remain less-well known or naturalized and therefore demand attention and scrutiny. Because gender is often perceived as “natural” rather than cultural, this course strives to destabilize our assumptions and broaden understandings of these issues.

Important content disclosure: Some of the materials in this class have adult themes and subjects, sexual and/or violent situations, explicit language, etc. If you are likely to be offended by any of these, you are strongly encouraged to register for another section.

GSTR 410- McKee, Lauren:  Energy resources are the fundamental thread that hold together the tapestry of globalization. Energy fuels militaries, drives commerce, and can raise standards of living. Access to resources (renewable and non-renewable) can incite wars between states, acts of terrorism, and territorial conflict. This course will examine the use of natural resources through the nexus of energy security, that is, within the context of economic, environmental, and national security. We will cover a diverse range of regions and issues, for example: early discoveries of oil in Titusville, PA, and subsequent industry development; criticality of oil in World War II; 1973 Arab Oil Embargo; the “resource curse” in countries such as Equatorial Guinea; nuclear energy and nuclear weapons; economic development and pollution in China; Russia and the oil/gas weapon, and more. We will also regularly incorporate news stories from around the world, using our historic and theoretical foundation to better understand current, global events. In the end, students should have a better understanding of the political implications of resource availability, consumption, and production.

GSTR 410- McKiernan Gonzalez, Eileen: Carol Kirby: Surviving Childbirth: Maternal Mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.

The human female body is designed by nature for procreation.  So why are so many women dying every day during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period?  Why are African women dying at substantially higher rates than any other continent on this earth?  What is being done to address this disparity?

This capstone experience invites students to synthesize and integrate previous learning while investigating multi-faceted and inter-related social, cultural, political, geographical, healthcare, and familial influences that directly impact on maternal and infant mortality rates in African countries.  The student’s individual research on a specific country will culminate in a written paper and oral presentation in class.

GSTR 410- Meadows, Richard: Why are some countries poorer than others? What can be done to accelerate their development and reduce poverty? We will debate many facets of the question, including the legacy of colonialism, government, the economy, education, conflict, health, agriculture, natural resources & foreign aid. For your final project, you’ll choose a developing country and do a case study on why it is poor and what has been done and could be done to foster its development.

GSTR 410- Norris, Ian: Creativity and Innovation. From the cave paintings of Lascaux to the design labs of Silicon Valley; From the soaring heights of a Bach Cantata or Cologne Cathedral to the sustainable manufacturing facilities of BMW and the green architecture of Torre Reforma in Mexico City and the Shanghai Tower, what do creativity and innovation have in common, and what role does creativity play in solving the most pressing global problems today? We will examine the psychology of creativity and its application to problem-solving. We will also examine the process of design thinking and its role in product development and business innovation. Drawing on disciplinary backgrounds as well as campus work experience, students will apply creative insights and design thinking to a global problem of interest, guided by the UN Sustainable Development goals.

GSTR 410- Parr, Mary: Human Survival into the 22nd Century. In the past 20 years, we have seen runaway carbon emissions accelerate climate change, major losses in terms of biodiversity of animal and plant species, increasing air quality issues, the emergence of new and dangerous diseases (not just COVID-19, but near-miss pandemics of Ebola and SARS earlier in the century). All of this raises real questions about if and how humanity can survive the stress to the planetary ecosystem we have placed on it. In this course, we will explore the various aspects of these challenges and how these problems can and must be addressed.

GSTR 410- Pearson, EricTechnology and Population. Throughout the 20th century, technological advancements (the synthesis of nitrogen from fossil fuels, the near elimination of certain diseases, the so-called “Green Revolution”) have contributed to a population growth unseen at any other time in human history. This course will follow these developments, pursuing answers to scientific, moral, political, economic, and other questions that arise from technological developments and population growth, which can be expected to continue deep into the 21st century. Student research will focus on particular countries and how technology and population growth have affected all aspects of national and international issues.

GSTR 410- Poggio, Carlos G.: International Public Policy Formulation. This project-centered course teaches students how to research and present effective policy advice through the development of a policy brief. The course aims to improve practical skills for identifying problems in the field of International Relations and formulating recommendations to help policymakers make decisions. In following Albert Einstein’s advice, who once said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions,” the greater part of the course will be dedicated to thinking about a global problem and defining it clearly. The course, therefore, is less about trying to solve world’s problems and more about scrutinizing a particular problem chosen by the student. At the end of the course, students are expected to: 1. Know how to identify a concrete global policy issue, 2. Refine their analytical skills, 3. Be able to effectively produce and present recommendations to influence the formulation of public policies in the international arena.

GSTR 410- Reid, Maurice: Winning with Logistics. This section of GSTR 410 will study the evolution of transportation systems, technology, and corporations in the development of global supply chains and their competitive impact on organizations, governments, countries, and economies. Beginning with the start of recorded commerce the class will trace major developments in logistics, supply chain management, and commercial organizations to understand how and why these trends have affected firm and regional competitiveness. This class will learn about the growth of freight handling systems and their impact on the economies of the regions they serve, as well as the use of communications technology and its impact on the way commerce is conducted. The class will study what motivates an economy/government to develop transportation infrastructure, the benefits of having an efficient transportation network, and how different economies have used logistics practices to grow and dominate a region. Given this history of development and growth, the class will explore why and how organizations benefit from having access to efficient transportation and applying technology to transportation practices. This course will use case studies, readings, and a research paper to demonstrate student understanding and application of the theory discussed in the class. The research component of this section will be satisfied by a research paper demonstrating an understanding of supply chain choices and their impact on an organization’s performance in its environment.

GSTR 410- Richey, Jeff: Tradition and Modernity in East Asian Cinema. By watching and discussing classic and contemporary films from China, South Korea, and Japan, and reflecting on the historical process of modernization in these countries during the 19th and 20th centuries, students will come to understand why modern East Asian societies combine the past and the present, the indigenous and the Western, as they do, what the social costs and benefits of such cultural fusions are, and how such “compressed modernity” relates to the rest of the world.

GSTR 410- Sergent, Tyler: Faith and Fanatics: Religious Extremists at Home and Abroad. The narrative propagated in western media and political discourse continues to use the terms “radical” and “extremist” to describe religious groups that are predominately found outside of North America and western Europe. Historical and contemporary realities contradict this narrative, and we can observe and study radical, extremist, violent religious groups originating within North America and Western Europe. We can also identify radical, extremist, violent policies by North American and Western European nations—through colonialism, imperialism, and various forms of political and economic hegemony—that have contributed to the radicalization, extremism, and violence of religious groups found around the world. Our course will study both local and global religious extremism in order to understand its historical motivations, contemporary actions, and to analyze critically its claims of religious identity and authority.

GSTR 410- Starnes, Bobby: This course will explore historical and contemporary issues and experiences, both shared and unique, of Indigenous peoples around the globe. It is designed to help us get past the stereotypes and superficial knowledge we may have and into learning about these cultures in ways that help us see, understand, and identify the value of Indigenous peoples’ traditions, histories, and cultural expectations. At the same time, we will explore the ways these cultural groups experience, respond to, and resist external pressure to “modernize” or assimilate–and the often-accompanying threats to their lives, land, resources, and ways of life. Using existing research, you will construct an understanding of validity threats, identify design defects, and critically and skeptically study the research base relating to one Indigenous group. You will use diverse entry points and include the voices of the Indigenous peoples themselves. Using shared learning techniques and a variety of hands-on experiences, you will prepare and present either a project or paper that fulfills the course requirements identified in the GSTR 410 general description.

GSTR 410- Stokes, Emmanuel: “You Don’t Own Me”: Cultural Appropriation and Arts around the Globe. In this course we will explore ideas of ownership, appropriation, and misappropriation in artistic and creative endeavors around the world, and responses to them. With its title taken from Leslie Gore’s 1963 hit song with a Civil Rights focus and an intentionally feminist stance, this will include discourse on art through the vehicles of music, visuals, theatre, aesthetics, ethnicity, race, politics, identity performativity, and sexual expression from around the globe. The course will establish baseline inquiries such as, “what is art,” “what is ownership,” and “what is appropriation,” to then investigate larger queries such as “can ‘beautiful’ ‘art’ come from culturally appropriative practices,” “do culturally appropriative behaviors sometimes flatter,” and “can the benefits of culturally appropriative practices outweigh the costs in certain (or any) circumstances?”

GSTR 410- Thornton, Michelle: Contemporary Global Issues in Sport: Olympic Games.The Olympic Games is not a world unto its own, separate from our world and society. Everything in our world is in the Olympic Games: race, gender, religion, race and culture, violence, and drugs. In today‘s world, the Olympic Games has become a great emotional outlet and escape for the world. With that pressure on it, how can the Olympic Games be anything but a microcosm of our world? In this section we will focus on the largest, regularly scheduled international gathering in the world: the Olympic Games. Particular attention will be given to the political significance of the Games and how national and ideological rivalries have showcased and recognized the largest and smallest of worldwide communities. The visibility of the Olympic Games has made them an attractive target for many political and social causes including political discrimination, boycotts, terrorism, communism vs. democracy, commercialism, amateur vs. professional athlete, drug use and testing, etc. Current media events, related to sport and the Olympic Games, will be integrated into class discussions. Students will conduct research and analyze identified issues related to the Olympic Games.

GSTR 410- Vazzana, Caryn: Human Migration: Movement of People and the Transformation of Cultures Around the World. This course invites students to synthesize and integrate their learning by using their developing abilities to reason, research, and communicate to investigate aspects of a significant issue for the world today. This section of the course will examine the winners and losers and the positive and negative aspects that accompany migration of people and their different cultures coming together. In the course, we will consider all types of international migrants: regular and irregular migrants, refugees, and those trafficked against their will. We will try to understand why individuals leave and how this impacts them, their families, the countries they leave and the countries to which they come.